Why Do Women Have To Wear Hijab When They Pray?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad


Why do women have to wear hijab when they pray? My 15-year-old daughter asked me the question, but I didn’t know the right answer.


The short answer is that a woman must cover her head when she prays because the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught women that this is a part of Islam. These are our shari’a laws that are divinely inspired and we trust that Allah has perfected His religion for us. He, Most High, says, “Today I have perfected your faith for you, completed My favor upon you, and chosen Islam as your way.“ [Quran, 5:3]

Women who do cover outside and inside the prayer can attest to the numerous benefits they have found with the hijab. It humbles one, it reminds one of one’s Lord, it puts Him above all else, it differentiates one from worldly women, it invites blessings and peace while it repels the sight of men, it serves as a protection and reminds others of God. It is only fitting that one would use such a tool for praying as well.

I pray that your daughter can soften to the idea of hijab and see the freedom and absolute control that it gives one. I have also copied the ruling about hijab in prayer below from Mufti Muhammad Ibn Adam:

“A woman’s ‘awra whilst performing Salat consists of the whole body except the face, hands, and feet. Allah Most High says: “O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel (zeenah) at every time and place of prayer.” [Quran, 7:31]

The majority of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them all), their followers (tabi’un), jurists, and exegetes of the Qur’an have deduced from this verse (along with the other evidence) the obligation of covering one’s Awra in prayer. [Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi, Ahkam al-Quran, 4/205; Ma’arif al-Quran (English), 3/565)

Sayyida ‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Allah does not accept the prayer of a woman who experiences menstruation (i.e. who has reached puberty, m) except with a headcover (khimar).” [Abu Dawud, no. 641, Tirmidhi; Ibn Maja; and others]

The great Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states in his renowned Durr al-Mukhtar:

“The Awra for a free woman (i.e. not a slave, m) is her full body including her descending hair according to the correct opinion, except for the face, hands……and feet”. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, 1/405]

Therefore, a woman must cover herself properly when performing Salat. Everything besides the face, hands, and feet must be covered. The face must be covered properly so that no hair is exposed. Also, care should be taken so that no part from above the wrists and ankles is exposed.

It must be remembered that the Awra whilst performing Salat must be covered regardless of another person being present or otherwise, and regardless of whether one is performing Salat in dark or light. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah, p. 210]

With regards to the area below the chin, it should be remembered that the limit of the face in length starts from the point where the hairline usually begins to the bottom of the chin, and in breadth the portion between the two earlobes. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah, p. 58]

Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear that the area below the chin is not included in the face, thus it would fall within the legal definition of ‘awra, and one should try to cover it. However, because of the difficulty in covering it, if a little part of it became exposed, there should not be a problem.”

The link to his answer in full is here:
A Detailed Exposition of the Fiqh of Covering One’s Nakedness (awra)

[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqida, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.